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Lincoln-Way North's Tre Lewis drives to the basket against Thornton's Justin Taylor (bottom) and D'Andre Fuller (right) in the second quarter of their game Tuesday, February 19, 2013, in Harvey, Illinois. Photo by Frank Polich

It’s been an up-and-down season for a Thornton program steeped in tradition.

The Wildcats, however, still had an opportunity to salvage some of their season by beating Lincoln-Way North on Tuesday night, which would assure them of at least a share of the SouthWest Suburban Red championship.

The first time the two teams played, North recorded a lopsided 66-51 win.

That would not be the case this time around. Rayshaun Bruce made certain of it.

Bruce converted two layups and two free throws in the final 2:13 to lead Thornton to a 50-45 win over Lincoln-Way North in Harvey.

The Wildcats (13-10, 11-2) moved into sole possession of first place. A win Friday at Thornwood gives them the Red title outright. North (18-8, 10-3) needs a victory over Stagg and a Thornton loss to gain a share of the title.

“We had to get this win,” said Bruce, who scored all 11 of his points in the second half. “We wanted to win conference.’’

Thornton led by as many as eight points in the first half. North, however, chipped away at the deficit until a putback by Denton Wallace tied the game at 36-36. A layup by Tre Lewis (11 points) to start the fourth period gave North a 38-36 advantage.

“My kids competed,” North coach John Terry said. “I’m very, very proud of their effort.”

However, when Justin Montgomery nailed a jumper with 4:27 remaining, Thornton regained the lead at 42-40 and never again trailed. Justin Taylor led the Wildcats with 15 points.

“The shots weren’t falling,” said Terry, whose team converted just 17 of 48 field goals and 8 of 15 free throws. “It’s a tough environment playing here.”

Trailing 48-45, North had three chances to tie the game in the final seconds. However, three-point tries by Wallace, Lewis and Ryan Pellack didn’t fall.

Daryle Morgan led North with 13 points.

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